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Tuesday, 5 June, 2001, 15:53 GMT 16:53 UK
Musharraf condemns religious hardliners
Pakistanis burn US flag
General Musharraf says intolerance is isolating Pakistan
Pakistan's military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf, has condemned hardline Islamists and called on the people of the country to shun religious fanaticism.

The world thinks that we are terrorists and responsible for violence around the world

General Pervez Musharraf
He said religious intolerance was disrupting government efforts to revive the economy and harmed the country's image abroad.

It led the world to believe Pakistan was a "terrorist and failed state," he told a conference of senior clerics meeting to mark the birth of the Prophet Muhammad.

The BBC's Zaffar Abbas in Islamabad says though it is not clear what has prompted the general to condemn the Islamic militants, his words will be welcomed by human rights activists.

Exporting terrorism

General Musharraf said fanaticism was destroying the social fabric of Pakistan and building a culture of violence within the country.

Violent sectarian clashes between rival Islamic groups have killed at least 80 people in Pakistan in the past five months.

But he said Pakistan had also gained a reputation for exporting terrorists and fundamentalist politics to other regions.

General Musharraf
The general says violence is not in the teachings of Islam
"The world thinks that we are terrorists and responsible for violence around the world," he said.

He denounced hardliners' ambitions which he said included hoisting the flag of Islam in the Indian capital Delhi.

The general said Pakistan's support for what he called the "Kashmiri freedom struggle" was confined to diplomatic backing.

He denounced Islamic groups for openly collecting funds in the name of jihad, or holy war, in the region and said the money often went to build up personal fortunes.

Militant Pakistani volunteers - often recruited from poor families by activists - are active in the Kashmir conflict and also fight alongside the Taleban in Afghanistan.

'Irresponsible statements'

The general, who is a moderate Muslim, said that the politics of violence went against the teachings of Muhammad.

He called on the clerics to stop issuing "irresponsible statements" in their religious statements which call for Muslims to wage holy war against the United States and Russia.

He said if Pakistan wanted to walk in step with the comity of nations, in what was turning into a global village, it must work for tolerance and harmony.

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See also:

12 Oct 00 | South Asia
Pakistan: Still out in the cold?
23 Mar 00 | South Asia
Profile: General Pervez Musharraf
13 Mar 01 | South Asia
Gunmen attack Pakistan mosque
05 Apr 01 | South Asia
Thousands mourn in Pakistan
28 Feb 01 | South Asia
Clashes follow Pakistani execution
12 Apr 00 | South Asia
Analysis: Pakistan's religious rift
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